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|UPDATED: Pruett indicted, arrested on Clean Water Act violations|
A West Monroe businessman was arrested last week and charged with 17 counts of violating federal clean water laws in a number of low-income communities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Campbell brought charges after investigations of Louisiana Land and Water Co. president and CEO Jeff Pruett revealed alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
Pruett's company manages water supply and sewer treatments at more than 30 facilities in northeast Louisiana.
Under federal law, Louisiana provides its own monitoring and permitting of water companies and wastewater treatment facilities.
Though Pruett possessed most of the appropriate permits, federal prosecutors contend he failed to maintain his systems to ensure Louisiana Land and Water was operating within federal clean water guidelines.
The 17-count indictment was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Monroe. It outlined events dating to 2004.
The problems, according to the indictment, existed at water systems in Bayou Galion, Charmingdale, Tanglewood and Fleetwood Park in addition to systems at Donovan Woods, Daywood subdivision and Love Estates
At each of the systems, prosecutors detailed a pattern of equipment failures, violations of record keeping laws and the discharge of raw sewage into the environment.
One such failure to maintain equipment at a pumping station in the Bayou Galion subdivision caused a failure, resulting in the discharge of raw sewage in January 2006.
Bayou Galion continued to experience numerous problems and failures, culminating with a three-month period in 2008, during which Louisiana Land and Water "did knowingly discharge pollutants from the Bayou Galion Subdivision wastewater discharge" into nearby waterways.
These violations resulted in fecal coliform discharges, which "exceeded the effluent limitations as set forth in the permit."
Fecal coliform is a type of bacteria found in human waste. The most widely-known type of the bacteria is the e. coli variety, which can cause illness in humans.
Louisiana Land and Water experienced similar failures in the Charmingdale water system in 2007.
On Nov. 7, prosecutors said Louisiana Land and Water experienced a maintenance problem that again caused "wastewater to be discharged on the ground and elsewhere."
Prosecutors also found a three-month period in which raw sewage was allowed to seep out of the system, in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The situation was no better in Donovan Woods and Daywood Subdivision, according to prosecutors.
Beginning Dec. 19, 2005, a manhole on a residential street overflowed, causing raw sewage to run into the neighborhood.
The problems with the manhole continued until the following March, when the overflow was finally contained.
Residents of Love Estates and Fleetwood Park also experienced similar problems.
From May 2005, through August of last year, raw sewage was allowed to flow from wastewater treatment systems into nearby groundwater near Love Estates.
A similar violation occurred about the same time in Fleetwood Park subdivision.
The problems in Pine Bayou subdivision dated to 2006, when illegal discharges of raw sewage began there.
A 17th charge contained in the indictment concerned Tanglewood subdivision, where Louisiana Land and Water was discharging wastewater without any of the permits required by federal or state law.
If convicted on all counts, Pruett could serve up to 58 years in prison and $850,000 in fines.